A Very Swedish Christmas – The first of Advent
December in Sweden is quite fantastic. Christmas gets everyone out of the November dumps and into a much cheerier mindset – if you can manage to overlook the shopping chaos. And given the reports of a booming and fully recovered economy- it will be true shopping chaos again this year.
Although many Christmas trees and decorations are set up before the start of Advent, it is the first of Advent which is the official starting line for the Christmas season. All the houses get out their advent candles, electric candalabras, stars in the windows – and now more often than ever before, outdoor lighting displays (although not as gregarious as the US).
Given that we now only get about 6-7 hours of sunlight per day, the extra lighting is almost a necessity.
For the kiddies – there is the advent calander tv-show and a small present per day. For the grownups it means the start of the Christmas Smorgasbord, the beginning of the Glogg, and the first gingerbread of the season. There are many traditions that remain truly Swedish, and I will try to touch on many of them here during the next month.
But the first of Advent is celebrated by a tree lighting ceremony in many city centres – a Christmas market (smaller than many of the German traditional markets – and thanks to Swedish policy – without the booze). It is also one of the biggest days of church attendance during the year – often more people go to church for the start of Advent than on Christmas eve.
Here it really does feel like Christmas – we've got half a foot of snow on the ground, it's below freezing out, and it is absolutely breathtaking. But I'm still not ready to bet on a white Christmas.